Corporal punishment can lead to more bad behavior by children

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A new University of Michigan study that used stronger statistical controls than previous research lends additional support against corporal punishment, saying the effects can be detrimental to children.

Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an assistant professor in U-M’s School of Social Work and the study’s author, used data from three years (1994, 1996 and 1998) of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which examined the effects of corporal punishment. The analysis attempted to determine if corporal punishment, which typically involves spanking, affected children’s antisocial behavior in later years.

“Even minimal amounts of spanking can lead to an increased likelihood in antisocial behavior by children,” said Grogan-Kaylor, whose findings are published in the September issue of Social Work Research.

In addition, the study found no evidence for differences in the impact of physical punishment across racial and ethnic groups.

Corporal punishment has been part of a long-standing debate in how parents discipline their children. Some researchers believe corporal punishment will lead to compliance with desired behaviors among children. Other experts say it will teach children that the use of physical aggression is normal and appropriate to solve conflicts.

The U-M study analyzed data from more than 1,800 children. Mothers were asked about their children’s particular bad behavior, such as cheating/lying, bullying, breaking things deliberately or getting in trouble in school. In addition, they were asked the frequency of times they spanked their child in the past week.

“This study provides further methodologically rigorous support for the idea that corporal punishment is not an effective or appropriate disciplinary strategy,” he said.

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